Westover leading scorer and Super 6er DyTiesha Dunson, right, has paced The Herald No. 1-ranked Lady Patriots to a perfect 17-0 record this season. But that record will be tested in the next five days as Westover faces Tift County on Saturday, then city rival Dougherty on Tuesday. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY — Looking for a potential bump in the road for Westover’s unbeaten Lady Patriots?
It could be right down Highway 82 on Saturday night in Tifton, where Westover meets Class AAAAA power Tift County at ABAC in one of the biggest games on the schedule.
Westover is 17-0, and the Lady Pats already beat Tift County in the second game of the season, but Tift has improved since then.
“This could be a bump for us,’’ Westover coach Lewis Smith said Thursday of the matchup with the 13-5 Lady Blue Devils. “We beat them in the second game of the season but it was a real close game. They have lost to McEachern, which is ranked in the nation, and Lowndes. They have a real good team.’’
The game will have a later-than-normal start (7 p.m.) and will be played on the larger college court at ABAC.
“Their strength is their depth,’’ Smith said. “They play 12 players all the time. I play 10 and most teams play eight. But they are really deep.
“And it’s on the road in a gym that we are not familiar with. It’s going to be a good contest. This game and the game we play against Dougherty will be our two greatest games.’’
Westover, The Herald’s No. 1-ranked team all season in the girls Fab 5 Poll, and Dougherty — ranked No. 2 — meet Tuesday night in the Civic Center.
The first game was played at Westover, where the Lady Patriots had to come from behind to win, 45-42.
Westover plays Worth County tonight before playing back-to-back games against Tift County and Dougherty in what will be the toughest stretch of the season. If Westover stays unbeaten through those three games, the Lady Patriots would have five games left on their schedule, including a big showdown with Crisp County on Feb. 3. If they run the table they could finish the regular season at 25-0.
NO PLACE LIKE HOME: Dougherty’s boys and girls teams were hoping to get back in their renovated gym at the first of the year, but construction has held up the return and the Trojans and Lady Trojans are playing all their home games at Radium Springs Middle School.
“From what I’ve been told we won’t be back in our gym this year,’’ Dougherty boys basketball coach and athletic director Donald Poole said Thursday. “Every coach wants to play on his home court. We just have to go with the flow.’’
It’s about two miles from Dougherty High to Radium Springs Middle School.
The court is the same size and the seating capacity is not dramatically different. Radium Springs seats about 700 and Dougherty’s home gym seats about 800.
The teams can still practice at Dougherty, but have to give up a home-court advantage because of the construction.
“It’s really the construction outside the gym,’’ Poole said. “We are practicing there, but we don’t play games there.’’
Lee County has the same problem as Dougherty — no home court. They’re renovating the cafeteria at Lee County and using the gym as the cafeteria.
“They’ve confiscated the gym,’’ said Lee County boys coach Tim McPherson, who has — along with the girls team, which is coached by his wife, Fran — had to play his home games at Lee County Middle School. The Trojans have also played what were considered two home games — against Westover and Americus-Sumter — but those took place at Darton in Albany.
“It hasn’t been a whole lot of fun,’’ McPherson said. “It’s kind of been disheartening to our seniors who haven’t had a place to call home.’’
The practice schedule has also been a nightmare. Sometimes the boys and girls teams practice at Lee Middle and other times at Lee County Elementary School.
“The kids have to listen to the announcements because the time and place change every day,’’ McPherson said. “The kids have to be on the move. It’s been an unusual season.’’
The plan is to have the cafeteria ready by the end of the month, and Lee County has two more home games in February.
“We’re hoping to get back in there for the last two home games,’’ McPherson said. “We have two (home) games left and our seniors are dying to get back in the gym.’’
WELCOME BACK, COOPER: Worth County has a new girls basketball coach, but he’s a familiar face. John Cooper, who coached the girls two years ago, has taken over the team for the remainder of the season.
Stephanie Davis, who took over as the coach at the beginning of the season, has left the program.
“She needed to take care of some personal problems,’’ Worth athletic director Russell Beard said Thursday. “We’re not saying she didn’t do a good job. She did. John Cooper decided he just wanted to coach football. He’s an assistant football coach. He’s helping us out. He will do a good job for us. We’re down to about eight or nine players, but we’re going to be OK.’’
It has been a tough year for Worth County, which is 4-9 for the season and 0-4 in Region 1-AAA.
ANOTHER BIG WEEKEND: One of the biggest games of the year in the girls race in Region 1-AA takes place tonight at Albany High, where the Squaws meet Brooks County at 6 p.m. in a huge showdown for first place.
The Squaws have bounced back after losing their region opener at the buzzer against Fitzgerald and looked unbeatable Tuesday night in a 65-50 win against Early County. They are now 3-1 in the region. Brooks is 4-0. Albany High has outscored region opponents 166-125 in those three wins.
The Region 1-AA boys race is a logjam with Albany High, Thomasville, Early County and Cook all sharing a piece of first place with one region loss. Albany High is at home tonight against Brooks, which is 1-3 in the region, but will gain ground with a win because Cook plays Thomasville at home tonight, and Cook travels to Early County on Saturday night.
It’s also a monster weekend for the Terrell County’s boys, who travel to Calhoun County tonight, and then hit the road again to face Randolph-Clay on Saturday. Terrell County, which has won six in a row and is 3-0 on its side of Region 1B-A, faces its two biggest region rivals on back-to-back nights. Calhoun County is 4-3 in region play, and Radolph-Clay is 4-3 in 1B-A.